“What is the most important issue facing Cape Elizabeth’s school system today?” was a question asked by a Forecaster South reporter of me and three other Capers running in November for two School Board positions. Unfortunately, our answers to this important question were neither printed in the Forecaster nor reprinted in the Portland Press Herald. So I will repeat my answer.

The issue for me is declining school enrollment and failure to attract in the future committed teachers, teaching assistants, nurses and a host of support staff. School enrollment has declined by 9 percent over the past decade. No amount of school renovation nor new building construction, whatever the cost, is alone going to reverse this trend.

Cape Elizabeth, population 9,500, has a narrow tax base, expensive housing costs and no public transportation. Its low- to moderate-income housing stock is remarkably limited, making it financially unfeasible for most households to rent or buy property. Our teachers, firefighters, police, public service employees and minority citizens can’t afford to access our outstanding educational facilities, nor can many of the adult children of Cape residents afford to move their families back into our community.

The best solution to the schools’ declining enrollment and the need to attract committed staff is to immediately address the issue of affordable housing. Unless Cape Elizabeth acts to ensure that its town is a welcoming, diverse, affordable community, it will continue to be viewed from the outside as an elitist enclave refusing to “tear down its walls.”

Larry R. Kaplan
Cape Elizabeth

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